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What Peter Dalglish’s Arrest Means for the #AidToo Movement

Peter Dalglish with a child (I covered the child’s face to protect his identity) sourced from a Google image search

Peter Dalglish, a Canadian and former high-level United Nations (UN) official, has been arrested in the Republic of Nepal on child sex trafficking charges. Educators and humanitarians are expressing shock as news spreads on social media about a man many called a “hero.”

Because Dalglish’s resume reads like so many criminal complaints I have reviewed in my extensive research on child traffickers, when I learned of Dalglish’s arrest my response was, “of course.” Dalglish is no hero. By accounts, so far, it appears he is a typical sexual predator — a highly-placed pedophile.

Research shows those convicted for child pornography (the trade in child rape) in North America are disproportionately white, male and powerful. They consistently place themselves in positions of influence and proximity to vulnerable children. Dalglish is a well-heeled white man with a Western passport. His career, awards and pattern of behavior all fit the profile of men who sexually abuse and exploit vulnerable children.

No one should be surprised. Yet so many seem to be. Why? I believe people are expressing disbelief and anxiety over Dalglish’s arrest on child rape charges because so few people understand how pedophiles operate.

Let me explain.

Pedophiles typically clad themselves in prizes and prestige. This is their armor. Dalglish sought out, and received, as many honors as he could muster including the Order of Canada. His titles indicate “this man is untouchable and protected.” He rubs shoulders with prime ministers. He has formidable friends in the UN system. He travels with global leaders. Think twice before speaking out against him. Intimidation is what Dalglish’s extensive accolades convey — not merit.

At schools all over Asia, Europe and North America Dalglish made the same speech describing himself as a self-sacrificing humanitarian who abandoned a lucrative career to help children in the developing world. He repeats, nearly word for word, that he gave up luxury cars to help children in disaster zones. Like this speech at a school in Bali where he describes how dedicating himself to poor children meant, “I would never race around in a convertible BMW in the streets of Vancouver with the top down and there would be no ski chalets.”

The reality is, he sacrificed nothing. Dalglish’s worth is estimated at $7–16 million USD and may be even greater. He can afford as many extravagant cars and ski chalets as he wishes. When a white privileged man whines about not being able to own a BMW due to his “sacrifice” for poor children, this is a blatant tip-off on the veracity of his “humanitarian spirit.” Yet, it seems, no one clued in.

Why did Dalglish repeat this lie at schools all over the world?

This is called grooming. Dalglish was grooming school administrators. He was grooming parents. He was grooming targeted communities to gain access to their children. This is what pedophiles do. This is how they create a supply-line of children to abuse. Many, it seems, obediently swallowed the lies Dalglish told about himself and bestowed on him the title of hero.

Yet, not everyone was being groomed. If Dalglish is the typical pedophile he appears to be, he would have also been networked with other pedophiles. The tributes, honorary degrees, and amply paid UN positions would have been given to him by men like him. Doing the same thing.

Pedophilia is a highly networked criminal activity. Pedophiles collectively engage in child abuse, share children they have access to, tip each other off on where to locate vulnerable children and teach each other how to ensure impunity for their crimes. Pedophiles also help each other obtain authoritative professional positions, titles and awards. They use these positions to protect each other and their crimes. As mentioned, this is their shield — their criminal defense.

At the moment, humanitarians are using the hashtag #AidToo on social media to discuss the #MeToo movement within the international aid sector. Critically lacking in this debate has been the inclusion of child sex trafficking.

What does Peter Dalglish’s arrest mean for the #AidToo discussion?

Female humanitarians are not operating within a merit-based professional playing field. This much is understood in #AidToo conversations. Frequently men protect, promote and award each other senior positions where they do very little work, are ridiculously over-paid and enjoy almost no accountability. It is largely agreed this is typical across the humanitarian sector. Many of these men fit the Peter Dalglish profile. Are they all sexual predators? Probably not. Are many of them sexually exploiting both junior female humanitarian staff, female beneficiaries and children? Probably far more than most people can imagine.

What has remained misunderstood in #AidToo movement is that, disproportionately, male humanitarians confer on each other positions of significance they are rarely qualified for in order to use these positions to prey on vulnerable children and women. The influential, lucrative positions and lack of oversight are not random occurrences. These are intentional structures often done with the explicit purpose of enabling and protecting sexual predators among us.

Humanitarians should educate ourselves on how pedophiles operate. We should recognize the warnings signs. We should demand structures be built into our agencies so predators are detected at the earliest possible stage. Software, like NetClean, should be installed to monitor and report criminal activity to appropriate law enforcement. If the UN agencies where Dalglish worked, UN Habitat and the World Health Organization, had such systems in place, Dalglish may have been caught years ago; the abuse of many children might have been prevented.

Peter Dalglish’s arrest should be a “teachable moment” for the humanitarian community to understand and recognize how predators exploit the cover of “heroism” to commit crimes.

Let’s be clear. Peter Dalglish is not a hero. He never was.

There is, however, a group of heroes in the Dalglish story — men and women we should all be celebrating — those in Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) who were courageous enough to investigate and arrest a highly-placed pedophile who spent a life-time building a fortress against just such an arrest.

Bravo to Nepal’s CIB. More power to you.

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Lori Handrahan’s Ph.D. is from The London School of Economics. She has been a humanitarian and an academic for over twenty years and can be reached on her website www.LoriHandrahan.com and Twitter @LoriHandrahan2